“General, someone has come over from that side.”
The personal guard stood outside the tent. At this time, the sky was still dark, the fog filling the air and the sky appeared as dark as ink. Chen Baisong opened his eyes. He had clearly just woken up, but his eyes appeared alert as if he was never asleep in the first place. He sat up in a big cloak, put on his shoes and socks and went out. The cold wind blew violently, and with it blowing in his face he became even more wide awake and energized.
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Chen Baisong looked into the distance and asked, “Who was sent over?”
The personal guard: “An old man with a big beard.”
Chen Baisong frowned: “I asked for his identity, who asked for his age?”
The personal guard paused: “He said that he is the father of the arrested Zhang laoye.”
Chen Baisong: “Settle the person down first.”
The personal guard nodded and left directly.
Chen Baisong then went back to put on his clothes again. In the military camp, he wore armor which weighed more than 30 kilograms. It was always a hassle every time it was worn. It was necessary to have two of his personal guards assisting him together so that he could get dressed quickly. And everytime he took it off he was always covered in sweat, his clothes wet through with it. But there were no conditions to take a bath every day in the army, and even Chen Baisong himself felt that he almost permanently stunk now.
A personal guard held up a breastplate and put it on Chen Baisong. When he got close, he wrinkled his nose and smiled: “If the general marries a wife in the future, I am afraid that the bride will fall into a dead faint from the smell on the wedding night.”
The other personal guard also laughed: “The general being willing to marry a wife or not is another story. Our general is a peerless hero so how can there be women who won’t love him?”
“Now it’s you who don’t understand. All women love literary scholars.”
Chen Baisong finished putting on his armor: “Since you have so much to talk about, then stay in this tent today and have a good chat. Don’t even stop for a moment.”
The personal guards looked at each other and quickly said: “General, I have nothing to say to him. If we have the energy to gossip then why not kill a few more enemies on the battlefield instead, right?”
Chen Baisong took a step forward, followed by the personal guards.
He had captured Ru Ning a few months ago. Lin Yuan had not sent anyone to take over the governance, so he could only remain stationed here and guard it for him first. Although Chen Baisong knew how to fight wars, he didn’t know how to govern. The method he came up with was quite simple, stationing the army outside the city and not allowing the soldiers to enter the city to harm the people, nor let the people inside come out. Ru Ning was a big city, and the farm fields inside were enough for food. Even if it was laid siege for a few years, the people inside wouldn’t die from starvation.
As for the original officials of Ru Ning, they were now under strict supervision in the military camp.
Ru Ning had been difficult to capture. Chen Baisong had to chip away at them for half a year. Don’t know how many battles both sides engaged in with each other. It took quite a few twists and turns to win.
But in the end, it was largely due to luck that they were able to capture the city. There were countless wealthy households in Ru Ning City, strong troops, sufficient food and rations. Moreover the city wall was also quite high. If they were to forcefully hold on, Chen Baisong really wouldn’t have any solution.
After all, it was difficult to hold a siege against a city. Even if there were siege devices, if the inside persisted in not opening the city gates and instead used their lives to hold on, Chen Baisong’s 100,000 army would eventually have to go back where they came from.
One hundred thousand soldiers consumed quite a lot of food and rations. If they could not capture Ru Ning, it would be very difficult to rely solely on the army rations delivered over.
Fortunately, Ru Ning was unwilling to drag on first. If it kept dragging on, Chen Baisong would be the one in trouble.
Ru Ning had a total of 50,000 troops. These 50,000 troops did not include the auxiliary soldiers as well, and they were all young and strong. They did not recruit the old, weak, sick and disabled to thicken the numbers. The weapons in their hands were also all sharp weapons, not to mention that they were backed by a big city like Ru Ning. They could both defend and attack, hide in the city when the situation was not good, and send archers to help them grab enough time to escape back into the city.
Chen Baisong walked into the big tent and saw the old man sitting inside. The old man was wearing simple commoner clothes. He didn’t appear to have come from a rich family at all. He had a long white beard, and looked rather sage-like. It was a pity that Chen Baisong was used to the pretentious appearances of that group of half-immortals headed by Chen Half-Immortal, and he really couldn’t muster any respect.
“On what business have you come here?” Chen Baisong sat behind the low desk.
The old man stood up and cupped his hands at Chen Baisong: “Greetings to the general, this old man is seventy-four this year and does not have many years left to live. I came here today to ask for grace for my Zhang family.”
Chen Baisong’s eyes were like torches: “Oh? Please speak.”
The old man said calmly: “I dare to ask the general, why do you not lead the army into the city?”
Chen Baisong smiled and said: “You came to ask me for grace, but question my actions instead. I wonder who is the winner and who is the prisoner here?”
The old man laughed: “The general does not need to use these words to embarrass this old man. If the general has the courage, then just lead the army into the city. Why station the army on this barren land outside the city instead? As long as the general releases my son, this old man will have every family keep their own family members in control and welcome the general into the city. The general will have both face and practical benefits, so what can you have against this?”
“My son is not an important person either. If the general lets him go, it will benefit the both of us. Isn’t this a good thing?”
Chen Baisong nodded: “It is a good thing.”
The old man’s expression did not change, but he still breathed a sigh of relief.
“How many sons do you have?” Chen Baisong asked.
Old man: “This humble old man does not have good health, and only has this one son, otherwise I wouldn’t have come to beg the general today.”
Chen Baisong smiled and said: “Since you have come here, there is no need to be in a hurry to leave. You can first go to meet your precious son and express the affection between father and son.”
The old man paused. Before he had time to speak, Chen Baisong called his personal guards over: “Take this old man to see Zhang laoye and then clean up a residence for him to stay for a few days first.”
When the words fell, the old man wanted to say something more, but the personal guards were already standing in front of him. The two soldiers were both big and tall, with a fierce face and a murderous intent that had been honed on the battlefield. The old man could only shut his mouth and follow them outside the tent.
“My lord, is my son alright?” The old man asked as he followed after them.
He had only one son, which was very different from other big families in the city who still had other sons if they lost one. Even if several sons died one after another they would still not be afraid that there would be no son to inherit the family name and continue the family. But he only had one son and he himself was already over seventy years old. He couldn’t give birth to another son even if he wanted to.
The personal guard laughed at him: “Were you not so arrogant in front of our general just now? Thought our general would be afraid of you? If you ask me, we should just castrate your son, use his thing to soak in wine and send it over to you as a gift. Then you’ll know that our general is not that easy to provoke.”
The old man’s face went green.
He wanted to scold and curse loudly, but one must bow their heads under the eaves. He was the beggar here therefore he must lower his attitude and posture.
The personal guards took him through the network of tents and came to a clearing. Naturally, a cell could not be built here, but the cage on prison carts could still be made, though this was more uncomfortable and shameful than a cell. In a cell one could still move around while in a cage, at most, one could only lay sideways. Eating and drinking and excreting all happened inside the cage. The soldiers came up with a way, in order to facilitate the cleaning, the cage was padded with dry straw, which was changed every few days.
When the old man saw this his tears came down immediately.
“My son, my son!” The old man rushed to the cage and looked at his son who was sitting inside. He was so dirty and smelly it was truly unbearable. His originally decent and refined looking son now had his face covered with a wild beard, though he didn’t seem to have lost much weight. But looking at him now he really did appear like a savage.
The old man cried painfully: “My son!”
“Savage” Zhang laoye also rushed to the bars of the cage. The man in his thirties cried with tears and snot, “Dad, dad, save me! This is not a place for people to stay!”
The old man’s well-maintained hands grabbed his son’s hand: “Son, listen to your dad, and bear with it some more. Dad will definitely save you. Dad said to the general that if he lets you out, I will welcome him into the city. But he still didn’t give me a positive response.”
Zhang laoye widened his eyes: “What does he want then? If he won’t even agree with this, then what does he want?”
“Son, you’ve been here for so long, you don’t have any idea why he keeps you locked up?” The old man whispered, “He has locked you all up, so he must intend to use you all to exchange for some benefits, but I don’t know what benefit he wants to exchange for.”
Zhang laoye also lowered his voice: “If it’s not for money, then it’s for people!”
“Since he doesn’t want to enter the city, he must definitely want gold and women, dad, give it to him, give it to him, and tell him to let me go.”
The old man nodded again and again: “I will give it all to him, give it all, as long as he can release you, dad will give him everything.”
Zhang laoye also breathed a sigh of relief. He knew that his family would definitely find a way to save him, but he had also been worried that the family would not dare to use all their wealth to rescue him. After all, he had a son and even if his son was still a child and could die prematurely, he was still of the Zhang family bloodline.
The thought even came to him that if he did not have a son, or if his son died, maybe he would have a higher chance of being saved.
“Finished yet?” The personal guard rolled his eyes and lifted the old man up by his arm. “If you’re finished then leave. You really think that the barracks are yours and that you can do whatever you want to do, and can stay as long as you want to stay?”
The old man quickly said: “I’m leaving now, soldier sir, my son has not suffered much before, and he also hasn’t done anything bad. Please don’t keep him here. Let him share a tent with me, please? We are in the barracks, and we can’t run away. We also don’t dare to run.”
The personal guard laughed: “Old man, you are very interesting. Come on, come with us now. The general hasn’t spoken so no one in the barracks will dare to accept your request, even if you have gold, no one will dare to accept it.”
The old man paused in digging through his pockets, and he didn’t know whether the gold he held in his hand should be taken out or not.
The personal guard: “Here, old man, you are already of such old age. The air is bad here and continuing to stay here is not good.”
When not mentioned, he hadn’t noticed it. Once it was said however, the old man also found the smell here to be really unpleasant. The Zhang family was also an affluent family in Ru Ning, with everything that wealthy families had. There were hundreds of servants serving them so there was no need for the masters to personally do anything.
There was the smell of excrement and urine, and there was also an indescribable stench, all adding up to make people dizzy.
Father Zhang subconsciously took a deep breath, his legs softened and he almost fainted.
The personal guard supported him: “Old man, you are at such an old age, why not enjoy the good fortune at home, why come out? Children and grandchildren have their own path to walk, right?”
Father Zhang covered his mouth for fear of vomiting out.
He looked at the smile on the soldier’s face, and wanted to spit viciously at the man, and then order a servant to drag him out and give him a board beating. It would be even better if he was directly beaten to death.
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But now, he could only say to the soldier with the mud on his legs barely even washed off: “Soldier sir, let me take a rest, let me take a rest and I will go.” (TN: mud on the legs=poor farmers, a term of contempt)
Father Zhang sat on a block of stone on the side, his hands trembling nonstop.
What does General Chen want?
Money, power, beauty?
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